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Keywords:

  • Antibody;
  • Antigen;
  • Immunity;
  • Immunoglobulin isotypes;
  • IgA;
  • IgG;
  • Measles;
  • Epidemic disease

Abstract

Interpretations of the demographic impact of Western diseases are frequently clouded by a failure to appreciate the complex nature of immune responses. It is commonly assumed that epidemic diseases are generally characterized by both transplacental and lacteal transmission of maternal antibodies. This is not, however, the case for viral diseases, such as measles, smallpox, and influenza–-all of which reached epidemic proportions during the post-Columbian era. In this paper I review the nature of the immune response for viral diseases, with emphasis upon measles, a disease that contributed heavily to the demise of native peoples. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.